Despite missing out on a liquor license, a Lovell-based fitness center has decided to open a new Powell location anyway.
“We had made the decision not to move forward with our expansion into Powell,” said Stacy Bair, who co-owns Club Dauntless with her husband Devin. “But we continued to get such strong support from the community members that we have decided to proceed with the project.”
The company announced last week that it hopes to break ground on Powell’s west end this spring and have the fitness center up and running by November or December.
Club Dauntless’ plans are being scaled back: The Bairs’ initial vision for the Powell location included a golf simulator and sports bar, but those plans have been shelved, as they hinged on getting a liquor license from the City of Powell. The city council instead gave the last retail license to the Powell Clocktower Inn, a planned hotel and
conference center that’s also set to be built in the Gateway West business park.
Going into the council’s Dec. 2 meeting, Bair said she was willing to build the full facility and wait for a license to become available if the city awarded the license to the hotel. But “I honestly left that council meeting just kind of heartbroken,” Bair said. From some of the comments councilors made at the meeting, “I got the impression that maybe people really didn’t want it,” she said.
However, in the days and weeks after that, “everywhere I went, I continued to get Facebook messages, people would stop me in Powell and people from Powell [were] still coming into the gym in Lovell, asking me to do it,” Bair said of bringing Club Dauntless to Powell. “So I just ... felt so much support from the community members that it just kind of tugged on my heartstrings.”
She decided to proceed with the Club Dauntless expansion after meeting last week with Powell Councilman Scott Mangold, who had joined the 4-2 majority to give the liquor license to the Powell Clocktower Inn.
“These projects are supposed to be fun and exciting,” Bair said. “And I wanted to move forward with the [Club Dauntless] project, but I wanted the town government to be on board with it and be excited about it and have no awkwardness between us.”
Following her discussion with Mangold, “I felt like I did have their support,” she said.
Councilman Mangold said Bair seemed to have gotten the impression that he didn’t want Club Dauntless, but “I assured her, any additional business to Powell, I appreciate — and I think it’d be really beneficial to have [the fitness center] here in town.”
He described his vote to give the liquor license to the Powell Clocktower as not in opposition to Club Dauntless, but in support of the hotel.
“For about 10 years I’ve been advocating for a hotel, and I figured that that would be the ... best for the city,” Mangold added. “Plus, all the people that I talked to around town said they thought the liquor license should go to the hotel.”
Knowing that hotelier and developer Steve Wahrlich was still working to raise funds for the Powell Clocktower, Mangold said he didn’t want the lack of a retail liquor license to be a problem for Wahrlich as he recruited investors. Wahrlich initially told the council that the Powell Clocktower could probably get by with a more limited bar and grill liquor license, but he later said he needed a full retail license.
The City of Powell is partnering with Wahrlich on the development. While the 70- to 80-room hotel will be privately funded, the city will initially own the 10,000 square foot conference center, as the State of Wyoming is providing a $2.62 million grant to build it. The project has been a top priority of local leaders, including Powell Economic Partnership.
As for Club Dauntless, Mangold said he told Bair last week that he would do whatever he could to help get the business going in Powell.
“I think they have a great business plan and I think it would be great for the city,” Mangold said.
While the Bairs are moving forward with the fitness center, the plans for the golf simulator and high-end sports bar have been tabled. Building without the guarantee of a liquor license was “too risky,” Bair said.
“We’re just going to have to wait and see what comes of what’s on our plate,” she said. “It’s not completely dead, but it’s essentially on the back burner.”
The bar and golf center were intended to raise additional revenue, as Bair has said there’s not enough money in gym memberships to support Club Dauntless. As for how Bair plans to bring in that additional revenue without the bar, “I’ve got something else up my sleeve,” she said, describing it only as a different project that might not be developed in Powell.
Through a holding company, Bair and her husband have purchased five lots in Gateway West, totaling about 3.7 acres. All 17 lots in the business park have now sold — as Bair Holdings acquired the last two in late December.
“That just gives us options for expansion if we need it,” Bair said.
The Powell Clocktower Inn and conference center is set to be built on three lots that lie just southeast of Bair Holdings’ properties. The plan is to break ground on the hotel later this year and open its doors in the spring of 2020.
Bair said Club Dauntless is hoping for an April groundbreaking.